Governor Rick Snyder covered topics ranging from urban farming to "fracking" in his special address on energy and the environment today.
He said the state should do more to deal with blight and encourage urban farming in cities with lots of vacant land.
The governor said too much abandoned property in Flint, Detroit, and other cities is going to waste when it could be put to a new use.
“And all I’ve seen in my two years as governor is a lot of discussion about right-to-farm, and urban farming,” said Snyder.
He said it is time to settle issues dealing with zoning rules, pesticide use, and other barriers to using urban space for agriculture.
“There’s too much talk and not enough action,” he said.
The governor also wants to ban chronically delinquent property tax scofflaws from state land auctions, and make better use of brownfield redevelopment funds.
As part of his energy plan, the governor said he wants to overhaul utility assistance for low-income families.
He said too often people do not seek help until they have lost their heat or power. That means they are shut off, only to have their service restored later. Snyder said that is a waste.
“Can’t we be smart enough to see that these people need help, and help them without going through that big mess. Now, that’s just something I see as simple common sense, but we’ve been going through that crazy business for years. Let’s knock it off,” he said.
Utilities do offer programs to avoid shutoffs, but typically people have to sign up in advance.
The governor also says the state should build up its own gas reserves to sell to utilities during high demand periods. The state would do that by keeping a share of the gas drilled by developers on public land.
Addressing the topic of Michigan’s energy future, Snyder said he wants the state to set new renewable energy targets, but also supports more drilling for natural gas.
Snyder said Michigan has a lot of natural gas reserves.
“Relative to most of the other states, Michigan is a very strong place and we have strong assets here. And why am I so bullish on natural gas? It’s because compared to coal, it’s a much better alternative,” he said.
The governor came out in support of a controversial chemical drilling process called “fracking,” but he also commissioned a study on the best ways to make sure it is done safely.
The governor says he wants to spend 2013 and 2014 having a statewide public discussion on the topic of renewable energy.